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Wednesday February 20 2019
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Pens paste five on Fleury in emotional win over Vegas

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The Penguins scored three times in the second period and twice in the third to finish off Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights in a 5-4 win Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

The first period for Marc-Andre Fleury was impeccable.

Sidestepping the emotional distress of a touching tribute video after the first television timeout in his first trip back to a city that he called home for 13-seasons prior, Flower persevered, stuffing all 11 shots he faced.

The next 40 minutes were not so kind.

Ryan Reaves, Ian Cole and Jake Guentzel each rattled off goals over the Vegas netminder in the second period leading Pittsburgh (30-22-3) to its seventh win in the last 10 games.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel teamed up adding the extra insurance in the third period.  Malkin nabbed his 30th goal of the season, and Kessel his 41st assist on a 2-on-1 finish with just over three minutes expired in the third period, while Kessel (24) finished backdoor on an open net from a precise sliding pass off the stick of Malkin just 3:11 later.

Malkin, who earned NHL first star honors last week, continued his white-hot streak, corralling two more points, adding to a run of 10 total points (seven goals) in his last four games.

“It was a pretty tight game.  Both teams didn’t give up a ton,” said Crosby, who finished with two assists on the night.  “Good for us to climb back in it there.  It wasn’t looking good for a while.  We were down a couple, but a big second and we followed it up with a big third.”

Fleury, the all-time winningest goaltender in Penguins history (375) who heard scattered chants of “Fleury” throughout the pre-game and first period, gave up all five goals, stopping 33 shots.

“There was a lot of stuff going on.  A lot of emotions and some stress” said Flower, who hoisted three Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.  “It was very weird.  It was different.  It was worth it.”

“It’s good to play against them, but they are very talented and very fast,” explained Fleury about facing his former team.  “They can create a lot of space and time for themselves to get some goals.”

Fleury’s protégé, Matt Murray buckled down after surrendering a pair of goals, which had Vegas (35-14-4) up two midway through the second period, stopping 12-of-14 shots after James Neal (23) scored the latter goal.

“It was what I think everybody expected it to be.  It was emotional,” said Murray, who stopped 21 of 25 shots on the night.  “It was a pretty free-flowing game.  [Vegas] is a pretty good team.  They are a tough team to play against and we had to give it our best to get ourselves the two points.”

Reaves (3), who started on the fourth line due to Conor Sheary’s week-to-week injury, broke through Fleury first with a wicked wrister on the wing from the faceoff circle, which sailed right under the glove of the netminder at the 11:08 mark of the second period making it a 2-1 game.  Cole followed with his third goal of the year, who was followed by Guentzel’s (16) one-timer just past the faceoff circle 1:16 later.

“With the talent that we have in our locker room, we always have the ability to come back,” said Mike Sullivan.  “We just have to play the game the right way and we have to have a certain resilience to our mindset that we don’t let the momentum changes in the game affect us.  That’s what I really like about our team here in the last month or so, is that we’re showing signs of that resilience.  We’re not vulnerable to the emotions of the game.”

With a total of eight penalties between both teams, only one—a William Karlsson (28) game-opening goal—came on the power play.

The Golden Knights closed with a pair of unanswered goals from Ryan Carpenter and Jon Marchessault.

Pittsburgh now stands tied with Toronto for fourth in the Eastern division with 63 points.  They are second behind Washington in the Metropolitan, separated by one point from New Jersey and four from Philadelphia.

Cheers for Fleury

The emotional night for Marc-Andre Fleury culminated during the first pause in action, when a moving tribute video played on the jumbotron, with fans cheering and chanting “Fleury.” 

“You never know what to expect, but the warm up, I had goosebumps,” said Fleury.  “Tonight, I won’t forget.  It will be a game I’ll remember.”

“It was a great tribute to Marc and he’s really deserving of it,” said Sullivan.  “I’m sure it was very emotional for him.”

“I thought both goaltenders did a terrific job,” continued coach on the emotions for both goalies.  “I thought it was every bit as emotional for Matt Murray as it was for Flower.  I thought both of them handled themselves extremely well as they always do.  They’re two really good pros.  They’re two really good people.”

“Just an incredible ovation,” said Crosby.  “You don’t see it very often, but that being said, you knew it was going to be a warm welcome.  Just happy for Flower.  Probably one he circled on his calender.”

“I watched a little bit of it.  Those are always fun to watch,” said Murray of Fleury’s tribute video.  “It brings back some good memories of the last two years.  Especially for a guy like Flower, that was a big part of my development and he was a really good friend and mentor too me.  That’s something special.  I definitely allowed myself to enjoy it.”

Fleury closed his post-game scrum with one more message to his fans in Pittsburgh.

“Just amazing,” the beloved goalie said.  “The support I got over the years here, it’s just been incredible.  I want to thank everybody for all of these years and once again showing up tonight showing such good support.”

Injury report

Both Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney went down with lower-body injuries in Tuesday’s game.  Rowney exited the game in the first period after taking a direct hit on a blocked shot, while Kuhnackl left later in the game.

“They’re both being evaluated as we speak.  They both have lower-body injuries,” said Sullivan of the injury situation.

After the moneyline

The Pens covered as the second lowest home chalk of the season, just -135 on the moneyline. 

The Penguins went over for the fourth time in five games, just eclipsing the total, which was set at six goals.

Up next

The Penguins will travel to Dallas to face the Stars on Friday.  Puck drops at 8:30.

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